The 10 questions Conservative candidates for Prime Minister must answer

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With as many candidates as they could scratch an amateur football team together (albeit without a captain, or even forwards or much of the defense), the Tories risk creating more confusion than clarity in their quest for a leader.

Naturally, given the populist hard-right takeover of the party in recent years, they are all fighting for that end of the political bargain; but, with so many people in the fray and so many waffles, it’s hard to see where the dividing lines lie, personal or political.

We need a lot more definition and some litmus tests. So here are 10 questions for would-be leaders, but with a few more twists to challenge even the softest conservatives.

1. What is your economic policy?

Boris Johnson may be gone soon, but the “cakeism” continues within the Conservative Party. The closest thing to a political credo these days is telling yourself, your supporters, and voters that they can have it all.

Indeed, to a greater or lesser extent, and with differences only in emphasis and detail, the candidates all promise tax cuts, they all promise to control borrowing and inflation, and they all fear to reduce expenses.

The Cakeian exit clause is that tax cuts promote enterprise and investment, and therefore faster economic growth, less borrowing and more funds for public services. If so, you might be wondering why this lot has supported governments doing the opposite for 12+ years – especially the three chancellors/former chancellors in this contest (Sajid Javid, Rishi Sunak and Nadhim Zahawi).

To be entrusted with the fragile British economy, they must be pressed as follows:

  • How would you finance the tax cuts while waiting for the growth bonus?
  • Will you defend the current operational independence of the Bank of England and maintain the current inflation target of 2%? (Kemi Badenoch’s remark about keeping a closer eye on the Bank is a bad omen)
  • Will you restore and maintain the triple blocking of pension increases beyond the next election?
  • How are you going to cap energy bills?
  • How are you going to reduce the gaping trade deficit?
  • Is the housing crisis solvable?
  • Can we afford to support those in care?

2. How will you make Brexit work?

We’re all out now even Keir Starmer so there’s no point in reviving this except the government is still renegotiating the UK-EU Withdrawal Agreement and the unilateral rejection of the Ireland Protocol North. This risks retaliation from the EU, possibly leading to a trade war. There are also questions about those elusive “Brexit opportunities”. Applicants should therefore be asked:

  • Do you support the enactment and entirety of the NI Protocol Bill, regardless of the reaction from the EU?
  • What do you do if Sinn Fein boycotts the NI executive as a result?
  • How would you win a trade war with the EU, our biggest market and source of supply?
  • Do you support the EU-UK trade and cooperation agreement, including clauses on a level playing field on environmental standards, workers’ rights, competition policy, subsidy controls, state-owned enterprises and climate change? If so, where are the Brexit opportunities?

3. How will you achieve net zero?

Despite the pioneering work of Margaret Thatcher, Theresa May and Boris Johnson, many conservatives still doubt the existence of climate change or think net zero is unrealistic. Therefore:

  • Are you determined to maintain the legal commitment to net zero emissions in the Climate Change Act or to revise it?
  • Will domestic gas boilers in new homes still be banned from 2025 and replacement gas boilers from 2035?
  • Will new non-hybrid petrol and diesel cars be banned from 2030?
  • Are you in favor of safe fracking?

4. Do you believe in human rights as defined by the European Convention?

Not as silly as it sounds. Suella Braverman is the only candidate honest enough to have taken the implications of the plan to deport Rwandan refugees and other government policies to their logical conclusion and concluded that they are indeed incompatible with joining the European Convention on human rights.

So the question is: are you in favor of maintaining the ECHR and respecting the judgments of its courts as binding on the UK?

5. What is your personal moral compass?

It’s not a trap. People are interested in it and rightly so, given the power and influence of the position. We would like to know our future leader:

  • Are you a person of faith or attached to a belief system, and why?
  • What is your personal vision of equal rights for trans people? How would you solve practical problems in prisons, public toilets, shelters and in sports?
  • Is there structural racism in Britain?
  • Are British children being ‘indoctrinated’ in schools, and how?
  • Would you like to bring fox hunting back?
  • Do you have a personal opinion on abortion?
  • Are you in favor of the legalization of cannabis and have you ever used drugs?
  • Is divorce too easy or too difficult?

6. Does our policy need cleaning?

Obvious question, obvious answer, but some things follow:

  • Will you appoint a new adviser on ministerial conduct with the power to open investigations, including into you as prime minister? When?
  • Will you publish full tax provisions affecting you and your family, including offshore and other trusts, private investment vehicles, non-dom status, etc. ?
  • Should any minister or ex-minister who knowingly mislead Parliament (except for serious national security reasons) be expelled from Parliament?

7. What is your style of government?

Prime ministers often become megalomaniacs when they have been in power for a while, and some even before. People love strong leadership, but despise corruption. Therefore:

  • Would you like to strengthen cabinet government? How?
  • How would you change the culture in Downing Street and Westminster?
  • Is the civil service a help or a hindrance?
  • Would you like to serve under one of your fellow leadership candidates?

8. Do you believe in the union?

Again, an obvious question, but the Scottish (as well as Irish) question becomes critical. Given that:

  • How will you reduce visible support for independence in Scotland? More concentration?
  • Is it viable to keep saying “no” to a referendum?
  • What should a border between England and Scotland look like?

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9. What is the future of culture in Britain?

A bit amorphous, but two immediate issues loom:

10. How should Global Britain best play its leadership role?

Ripe for the waffle, but there are some specifics:

  • Are we determined to support Ukraine unconditionally, whatever the cost?
  • Even if you are obviously against reintegration into the EU/customs union/single market, are you open to a warmer and closer collaboration via the idea of ​​“European Community” suggested by President Macron?
  • Do you think relations with China could one day be strong enough to support a free trade agreement?
  • Are you determined to increase defense spending on the current trajectory or decrease it?
  • Are you ready to restore a service dedicated to overseas development and return to the aid target of 0.7% of GDP, and if so by when?

There is a lot to do, but I would have thought the next two months would be enough time to get a better idea of ​​what our next prime minister will look like. As long as they tell the truth, of course.

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